Archive for the ‘films’ Category

SMART – The London International Smartphone Film Festival

The launch of SMART – the London International Smartphone Film Festival – set up by Adam Gee & Victoria Mapplebeck was covered in this week’s Observer in a piece by Arts & Media Correspondent Vanessa Thorpe:

 

The full article is here

The Watergate Scandal game (1973)

Following up the recent post on Irish Free State Monopoly here’s another game with historic resonance preserved for posterity. The Watergate Scandal dates from 1973 and cost a less than scandalous $2.99 at the time. It is a card game with political points made in a mild satirical fashion. 

The cast of characters
The penalties
Strictly Confidential Instructions: Enhanced by playing in an echoey carpark
Made in 1970s paranoid USA

This (Washington) post is dedicated to Alfie Dennen, creator of Evil Corps game, which features thinly veiled portraits of the likes of the current owner of the Washington Post. A post on the excellent Evil Corps will follow shortly. 

As with the vintage Irish Monopoly set, this card game also features in Google Arts & Culture thanks to The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York. 

For the youngsters among us, a brief reminder of what the Watergate Scandal was all about. It was the mother of modern political scandals, unravelling in Washington DC from 1971 to 1974. So it was ongoing when this game came out. It took down the grim administration of U.S. President Richard Nixon and led to his resignation.

The scandal was rooted in the administration’s hopelessly inept attempts to cover up its involvement in a break-in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate Office Building in D.C. on 17th June 1972. The five burglars were arrested and then the press (noticeably Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post) and the Justice Department connected the cash found on the perpetrators to the Nixon re-election campaign committee. Witnesses at the subsequent Senate Watergate hearings testified that Nixon had approved plans to cover up administration involvement in the break-in and that there was a voice-activated taping system in the Oval Office hence all the tapping/bugging references in the game.

Later in 1973 the House commenced an impeachment process against Nixon. The Supreme Court ruled that the President had to release the Oval Office tapes to government investigators. The tapes cooked Nixon’s goose. The House Judiciary Committee charged him with obstruction of justice, abuse of power and contempt of Congress. Nixon resigned on 9th August 1974 before the house could impeach him and the Senate remove him from office. Tricky Dicky remains the only U.S. president to have resigned.

The name Watergate came to stand for a variety of clandestine and illegal activities by the Nixon administration, from bugging the offices of political opponents through ordering investigations of activist groups to using the FBI, CIA and IRS as political tools. Between Nam and Watergate the good ol’ US of A lost its trust and became the cynical and conspiracy-crazy place we know & love today.

Inspired by fork-tongued Nixon, The Watergate Scandal is basically a game of lying and bluffing (like many card games – and political activities). To see how to play it, this recent episode of Game Board Archaeology featuring Hunter and Rob Mattison captures it pretty well.

The game was produced in Illinois in Elk Grove Village, 20 miles northwest of Chicago, next to O’Hare International Airport. Its current population is some 35,000. Its original population were Potawatomi, speakers of an Algonquin language. They were booted off their land in the 1830s and relocated to Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. Stepping into the void created by men right up there with Tricky Dicky on the evil stakes came pioneer farmers from New England. Their civilisation reached its zenith when Elk Grove became the largest industrial park in the United States. The Watergate Scandal card game was the jewel in the crown of that mighty industrial estate.

Three years after the game we got the real silver lining of Watergate, William Goldman (scr.) and Alan Pakula’s (dir.) All The President’s Men, a film practically guaranteed to turn young viewers into journalists. 

All the President’s Men (1976) Dustin Hoffman & Robert Redford and a typewriter (youngfolk, it’s like a PC & printer, just no screen and often no electricity and if you get it wrong you just have to start all over again)

Coincidence No. 541 – J’accuse

Raquel Welch & Ringo Starr in ‘The Magic Christian’ (1969)

When I look at Facebook this morning the first thing I see is a post from the past (2015) on its anniversary. It was a reminder that today’s the day (13th January in 1898) that Émile Zola accused the French government/establishment of anti-semitism in the letter J’Accuse. Yesterday was the day (in 2015) the French government sent armed troops in to guard Jewish schools. I also published a second post on the subject that same day 5 years ago (the Charlie Hebdo shooting had been the previous week on 7th January 2015): Today’s the day (in 1898) Émile Zola published the letter J’Accuse in a French newspaper. He was convicted of libel. Then took refuge in London. #jesuischarlie

I am watching the 1969 British film The Magic Christian this evening. It contains a Who’s Who of the 60s of swinging London including Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Roman Polanski and Raquel Welch. Raquel plays a bikinied Amazon (echoes of her fur bikini in One Million Years BC, 1966) in a scene parodying the slave galley scene in Spartacus). Among the first words out of her mouth are “J’accuse!”.

Priestess of the Whip (Raquel Welch):

In, out.
[Groaning]

In, out!
[Groaning continues]

In, out. In…

During my reign as Priestess of the Whip, I’ve never seen such unmitigated sloth.

Passenger: My god! What’s going on here?

Priestess of the Whip:

J’accuse!

How dare this intrusion? Who are these people?

Youngman Grand (Ringo Starr): Oh, these are me mates.

Priestess of the Whip: Out! Out!

[Groans]

Passenger: Oh, I say! Do that again.

Priestess of the Whip: Out! Out! Out of my galley!

I was watching the film because tomorrow night Entertainment Attorney and Executive Producer Vinca Jarrett, who I met last year in Duluth, Minnesota when I was doing a speech on diversity in TV entitled Not The Usual Suspects, is putting on an online film discussion group which I’m really looking forward to. These kinds of online communal activity, like Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties, at their best are one of the silver linings of Covid Lockdown, generating a genuine sense of shared experience and contact. 

While I was at it I made an edit to the Magic Christian entry on Wikipedia, noting the fleeting appearance of John & Yoko in the movie. My first ever article published on Wikipedia was the one on User-Generated Content. And here we are some two decades later with WordPress and its over-refined self-publishing service with these difficult to manipulate Blocks and generally over-boiled interface. In two days’ time it is the 20th anniversary of Wikipedia – launched 15th January 2001. The scale, accuracy and relative lack of conflict around this pooling of the world’s knowledge online is a testimony to what people can do together for no money. In contrast to the theme explored by The Magic Christian, which is that everyone has their price.

Front page of the newspaper ‘L’Aurore’ Jeudi 13 Janvier 1898

What I learnt from Michael Apted

Director Michael Apted on the set of ‘Enough’ (2002) [ (c) Columbia. – courtesy of the Everett Collection]

It was sad to hear of the passing of Michael Apted on Saturday. His ‘Up’ series is one of the great achievements of documentary film and could never be replicated in the industry and the world as it is now. This is what I learnt from him when we crossed paths in Rome two years ago.

Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart (1992) with Sam Shepard & Val Kilmer

Best of 2020

The boldest film of the year – Lovers Rock

Film:

Lovers Rock

Babyteeth

Nomadland

The White Tiger

The Trial of the Chicago 7

Another Round

Queen & Slim

Le Corbeau, Vertigo

Last year: Joker, Mid90s

Foreign-Language Film:

The White Tiger

Another Round

Les Miserables (2019)

Last year: Parasite.

Documentary:

Crip Camp

Dick Johnson is Dead

Last year: Rolling Thunder Review

Male Lead:

Anthony Hopkins – The Father

Adarsh Gourav – The White Tiger

Tom Hanks – News of the World

Ralph Fiennes – The Dig

Mads Mikkelsen – Another Round

Last year: Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Female Lead:

Frances McDormand – Nomadland

Michelle Pfeiffer – French Exit

Eliza Scanlen – Babyteeth

Kate Winslet – Ammonite

Jodie Turner-Smith – Queen & Slim

Last year: Elizabeth Debicki (Virginia, Vita & Virginia)

Male Support:

Benedict Cumberbatch – The Mauritanian
Mark Rylance – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Sacha Baron Cohen – The Trial of the Chicago 7

Last year: Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin in Joker

Female Support:

Helena Zengel – News of the World

Glenn Close – Hillbilly Elegy

Saoirse Ronan – Ammonite

Olivia Coleman – The Father

Last year: Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Booksmart

Director:

Steve McQueen – Lovers Rock

Shannon Murphy – Babyteeth

Thomas Vinterberg – Another Round

Ramin Bahrani – The White Tiger

Last year: Todd Phillips (Joker), Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Writer:

Ramin Bahrani – The White Tiger

News of the World – Paul Greengrass & Luke Davies
The Trial of the Chicago 7 – Aaron Sorkin (though I don’t generally like him as a writer, too many words)

Rita Kalnejais – Babyteeth

Last year: Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Editing:

?

Last year: ?

Cinematography:

Andrew Commis – Babyteeth

Paolo Carnera – The White Tiger

Dariusz Wolski – News of the World

Hoyte van Hoytema – Tenet

Last year: Roger Deakins – 1917

Film Music:

Lovers Rock

Last year: Rolling Thunder Review

Single/Song:

Long Tailed Winter Bird – Paul McCartney

Reborn a Queen – Naughty Alice

Kunta Kinte Dub – The Revolutionaries

Last year: Lately – Celeste

Album:

McCartney III – Paul McCartney

Letter to You – Bruce Springsteen

Last year: Ghosteen – Nick Cave

Gig:

Sarah Jane Morris – Ronnie Scott’s

ROE – The Waiting Room

A Bowie Celebration – Empire, Shepherd’s Bush

Last year: Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets (Roundhouse)

Play:

0

Last year: A Taste of Honey (Trafalgar Studios)

Art Exhibition:

London Calling (Museum of London) – the only one I got to this year 😦

A Surge of Power by Marc Quinn going up on the base of the deposed Colston statue, Bristol

Boy & Bear – Brandon Hill, Bristol (thanks to Dylan on my birthday)

Last year: Van Gogh in Britain (Tate B)

Book:

Now We Shall Be Entirely Free – Andrew Miller

The Plague – Albert Camus

Summer – Ali Smith

Last year: A Woman of No Importance – Sonia Purnell; The Quiet American

TV:

Lovers Rock (BBC)

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)

The Crown – S4 (Amazon)

The Romantics and Us (BBC2)

The Bridge S1

Last year: After Life (Netflix)

Podcast:

Heavyweight

Adam Buxton

The Happiness Lab

Last Year: 13 Minutes to the Moon

Sport:

Spurs 2 – Arsenal 1 (11.7.20)

Dance:

Mam (Sadlers Wells)

Last Year: The Red Shoes (Sadlers Wells)

Event:

Statue of Edward Colston being chucked in Bristol harbour

The Winter Solstice at Newgrange, Ireland

Tim’s Twitter Listening Parties

Dearly departed:

  • Andy Taylor (with whom I worked at Little Dot and Channel 4)
  • Albert Uderzo
  • Jimmy Cobb
  • Alan Parker
  • Terry Jones
  • Carl Reiner
  • Kirk Douglas
  • Sean Connery
  • John Hume
  • Ruth Bader Ginsberg
  • Terence Conran
  • JJ Williams
  • Nobby Stiles
  • Nicholas Parsons
  • Tim Brooke Taylor


The only film I saw in the cinema after Lockdown

Best of 2019 and links to earlier Bests Of

Coincidence No. 202 – Kane

I finish watching ‘Citizen Kane’ for the first time in years, showing Enfant Terrible No. 1. I notice how the final scene in Xanadu with all his art and possessions boxed up must have inspired the final warehouse scene in ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’. 

Two minutes after the film finishes a message comes in to me from an old school friend commenting on the stuff I’ve been finding today as I sort out the attic and sharing with our Whatsapp group of schoolmates:

Ad – I’m thinking of that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark gets stored in a vast warehouse. Based on what’s emerging recently, I’m assuming your attic is something like that.

Final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark
Final scene of Citizen Kane

Alan Parker and the curse count

the commitments alan parker movie film

The Commitments (1991)

I met London-born director Alan Parker once – it was at the Dorchester hotel in Park Lane at some film-related event, around 2004. As we were walking out I took the opportunity to tell him a story about my younger son and The Commitments

Like many parents I tended to show my children movies too young, forgetting the detail of the content. One afternoon I was sitting watching The Commitments with the pair of them, connecting them to the Irish half of their identity. Enfant Terrible No. 2 disappeared off mid-movie for a few minutes to run upstairs and get the stopwatch his Auntie Bernadette had recently bought him. He then reinstalled himself on the sofa and carried on watching, shiny new present in hand. After a while he turned to me (he’s about five at the time) and said: “Dad, do you realise it’s 3 minutes, 48 seconds since the last ‘Fuck’?” like that was some kind of record in linguistic restraint.

I find The Commitments a pretty flawless film, the music performed with brilliant energy, the casting of Andrew Strong as Deco key to the success of the movie.

birdy movie alan parker 1984

Birdy (1984) – Nicolas Cage & Matthew Modine

Whilst I got as excited as the next kid about Bugsy Malone and the splurge guns, it was Birdy, which came out as I started uni, which made a real mark on my growing up. Matthew Modine’s performance is very moving, perfectly supported by a young Nicholas Cage.

Mississippi Burning movie film alan parker 1988

Mississippi Burning (1988) Willem Dafoe & Gene Hackman

Mississippi Burning remains one of my favourite Alan Parker movies. Although it’s probably looked down on these days for having largely white saviours, it’s as cinematic and compelling as you could wish. It would make a great double bill with Ava DuVernay’s  Selma. I’ll be watching it as a single bill this evening in memory and celebration of Alan Parker who went to the Big Studio in the sky yesterday. For me what he stood for was the ability to make entertaining and emotionally satisfying films which were accessible/mainstream and yet imaginative and substantial.

 

The Casting Game No. 402 – Six Nations Special

liam-williams-wales_rugby

Liam Williams

AS

spud ewen bremner actor trainspotting

Spud in ‘Trainspotting’

(I worked with Ewen Bremner in one of his very first roles at Melrose Film Productions around 1989)

liam williams_Wales-v-Fiji-Rugby-World-Cup

Ewen-Bremner-in-Trainspotting spud actor

Coincidences No.s 288 & 289

No. 288 – Matt A: Locke

I am in half-sleep early this morning thinking about a presentation I am doing next week at the University of Westminster on Public Service Media and about the fact that my old Channel 4 colleague Matt Locke is also speaking that afternoon.

I have the radio on in that half-sleep and I hear the (place)name Matlock (in Derbyshire) just after I think about Matt Locke. And then in the traffic report the fact that the A6 is blocked by floodwater in Matlock comes up. And then in the news a short while after the death of a woman in Matlock, drowned in the flooding river Derwent, gets mentioned.

Matlock Mercury floods 2019-11-09

Today’s edition

 

No. 289 – Matt B: Lenehan

This one is typical of the type of coincidence where you haven’t thought about something or heard a word for ages and then it comes up twice or more in 24 hours. 

I am at a seminar on James Joyce’s Ulysses at Senate House, University of London. We are talking about the Sirens chapter and the character of Matt Lenehan who in his diminutive creepiness reminds me of Peter Lorre’s character in Casablanca (Ugarte).

The next morning (today) I am finishing Patti Smith’s entertaining Year of the Monkey (her new poetic memoir, which revolves around semi-sleep states as in No. 288). It it she mentions that her late brother Todd’s favourite movie was The Beast with Five Fingers starring Peter Lorre.

I could feel the insidious fingers of memory rustling through the underbrush like the dismembered hand of the pianist scrabbling toward Peter Lorre’s throat in The Beast with Five Fingers.

(Good sentence!)

the beast with five fingers movie poster

 

4 highlights of Geneva

Following on from the last post (All Souls’ Day) I have spent much of today reading most of Patti Smith’s new book, Year of the Monkey. It’s put me in the mood to write (which is always the sign of a special writer – her friend Allen Ginsberg has much the same effect from my experience).

GIFF Geneva International Film Festival 2019 Geneve

I am in Geneva on a flying visit to the Geneva International Film Festival. Late last night – after returning home from my second viewing of the brilliant Joker at Warner Bros., where I bumped into my old Channel 4 colleague John Yorke and chewed the story fat with him – I managed to find the old tobacco tin at home where I keep my Swiss money. It turned out I had quite a lot – I haven’t been to Switzerland for a few years and it has appreciated markedly in the wake of the disastrous Brexit referendum (I hear they are a bit better at referenda here).

referenda oui non geneva geneve switzerland suisse

So I shifted the Swiss francs to my Euro purse, a suede purse from California my grandmother gave me as a boy – it says something like Gold Nuggets on it, long since worn away. I notice in Year of the Monkey how attached Patti Smith is to particular (not monetarily valuable) objects in her life, attributing meaning through memory to them.

purse with swiss francs

I decided to blow as much of my purseload as possible – this is what I spunked it on…

1) Soup

pumpkin soup cream

I love soup – it’s a top food and generally healthy. In Year of the Monkey Patti has chicken soup, decorated with egg yolks (not sure which came first the chicken or the eggs), with her ailing friend Sam Shepherd on his ranch in Kentucky. This is pumpkin soup – I don’t normally like it, often too sweet, but this was delicious. I ate it outside Le Perron restaurant at the foot of the hill in the old town – I ate under the tree at that restaurant years ago with my younger brother. We did a sudoku outside another cafe in the old quarter that time too – I hate puzzles and crosswords but on that occasion it was fun. Patti seems much attracted to numbers both in dates (in which she sees magical coincidences – see All Souls’ Day) and in books of geometry. The fly leaves of Year of the Monkey have some kind of algebraic-geometric sketch and scribblings. I think it’s what she describes herself drawing on a white bedsheet in a moment of inspiration.

2) Perch

perch fillets geneva geneve

Fillet of perch is a speciality of Geneva – they get the poor little critters from Lac Leman. So I sat outside Le Perron – the only person to do so – but the weather was mild. The owner found it amusing but conceded the weather was soft. “Il faut en profiter” I told him – I’ve really enjoyed exercising my French today. Patti references Rimbaud’s Illuminations in the bit I just read – I made a mental commitment to read it soon. He wrote those prose-poems in London around 1873-75.

verlaine rimbaud camden town plaque

8 Royal College Street, Camden Town

3) Steak Frites

steak frites wine

The Cafe de Paris was a recommendation by the lugubrious hotel night receptionist – it is a stone’s throw from Hotel Cristal. It turned out to be a carbon copy of Le Relais de Venise in London’s Soho and Marylebone. A restaurant that just does one meal but one meal really well – a great idea. The meal is green salad followed by steak and French fries aka steak frites. There must be a model for this kind of restaurant I thought – checked it out, there is – Le Relais de Venise established in Paris in 1959. Of course the meal demands red wine so I had a couple of little glasses. Patti is always eating and drinking in this new book as well as the last, M Train. It’s like join the cafes.

4) Cherries

cherries in cognac

Cherries drenched in cognac. Frankly it’s one of the BEST THINGS I’VE EVER TASTED.

I love cherries. I’ve not really engaged with cognac. Perfect combo. Highlight of the highlights.

Geneva geneve autumn fall old city

The old town

Patti Smith – like myself – is an inveterate flâneur. I wandered over to the digital outpost of the Festival where the VR projects were on display. As usual, underwhelming. I contend that factual programming is not the strong point of what is a very important new technology. Games, health, retail, architecture, training – all no-brainers. Documentary – my jury’s out. The cobbled streets, small squares, narrow lanes and flowing fountains of the old town are charming – in stark contrast to the banks and luxury goods shops.

When I lived just over the border in Savoie (Savoy, SE France) there was an outbreak of graffiti that year in Geneva. At the end of the year they caught the culprit – a psychologist who contended that the place was too clean and boring for the citizens’ mental health. The thing is someone somewhere pays for these watch shops and luxury brands to be here – they pay in poverty and hardship. Le reverse de la medaille. Every coin has another side.

GIFF reverse banners geneva international film festival geneve

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